the weblog of Alan Knox

What makes a meal the Lord’s Supper?

Posted by on Jan 16, 2009 in blog links, ordinances/sacraments | 59 comments

What makes a meal the Lord’s Supper?

Over at “the voice of one crying out in suburbia…“, Arthur continues a discussion on the Lord’s Supper in his post called “Ouch!” (see my post “Lord’s Meal“)

In this post, Arthur questions:

Is there not a place between the two extremes of rigid sacramentalism and informal meals? Can believers in a home experience the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace or must it be in a church building? Can a potluck among fellow believers exhibit the sobriety and gravity that the breaking of bread and drinking the cup demands? I have broken bread and had (non-alcoholic) wine in my home with believers and it was as meaningful and perhaps more so than a church ceremony. But I have also had meals in my home with fellow believers that were social but not at all in keeping with 1 Corinthians 11 nor would I consider those meals an adequate replacement for the Lord’s Supper. It has less to do with location and more to do with the spirit.

Arthur asks some very interesting questions. I’d like to modify these questions a little:

What makes a meal between believers the Lord’s Supper?

What makes a meal between believers NOT the Lord’s Supper?

I’m asking these questions because I’m not sure of the answer myself. What do you think?


59 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 1-16-2009

    I believe it is a matter solely of attitude. Are you worshipful to the Father? Are you thankful to the son? Are you respectful of the Spirit’s working within you?

    A meal is a meal, an attitude makes it of and for the Lord.

  2. 1-16-2009

    I would add purpose to attitude. According to 1 Cor 11:26, the Lord’s Supper “proclaim(s) the Lord’s death until he comes.”

    I do not think it means we must be somber, for we are remembering something worthy of celebration. On the other hand, it should be respectful of audience (God) and intention (proclamation).

  3. 1-16-2009

    Sister Laura,

    I think you have added something very important in that we must draw attention to His work and reflect upon it… interestingly, this would seem to set the tone of conversation for the entire time together! Imagine that, God’s people encouraging one another and pointing one another to Jesus outside of an “official church meeting.”

    Peace to you sister,
    From the Middle East

  4. 1-16-2009

    I like what Laura said, and it is what I was trying to get at in my fumbling post. The supper as described in Scripture is declarative, an active proclamation. I think it must include elements of purpose and intent.

  5. 1-16-2009

    It has to be a matter of more than attitude. We must not miss the context of Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians. He is instructing on the proper manner of taking the Lord’s Supper, but all of this is within the larger aspect of them being together as the church. He says, to do these things “when [they] come together to eat” (1 Corinthians 11.33), which is when they “come together as a church” (v.18). If we are not coming as the church then I do not believe we are rightly coming to the table of the Lord’s remembrance. Now, as a church maybe we can do this at a fellowship dinner, in the sanctuary, or on a picnic, but this should nonetheless be done as a church. Celebrating communion at a dinner party (or at a wedding as I’ve seen some do) misses the spirit of what Paul, and thus by proxy Jesus, teaches us.

  6. 1-16-2009

    Alan,

    Essentials:

    1. Genuine followers of Christ. On Where ever, when ever, and in what ever numbers, they meet to eat a meal (not necessarily an organised gathering)

    2. Whole-of-life desire and design of the individual to remember and celebrate what Christ has accomplished for His own at Calvary (individuals cannot act on behalf of the others)

    3.In relation to the above; a sincere consciousness, in the individual, of that which denigrates the Lord’s Supper

    At this stage in my life as a follower of Christ, I find it to be disingenuous, to say the least, to have an “organised”, legislated time in which folk are expected to “remember” what Christ has done.

    I doubt, very much, that this is what either Christ or Paul had in mind, with Acts 2:42ff and Colossians 3 being closer to the mark.

  7. 1-16-2009

    Aussie John, you stated: “At this stage in my life as a follower of Christ, I find it to be disingenuous, to say the least, to have an “organised”, legislated time in which folk are expected to “remember” what Christ has done.”

    The original Lord’s Supper was experienced in the larger context of the Passover supper…an “organized” (American spelling :}) time in which God’s people were expected to remember what He had done in freeing them from the last plague in Egypt. Since Christ became the final Passover sacrifice, wouldn’t His command to “do this in remembrance of Me” have an element of organization and purpose?

    I don’t mean that it must be a “strictly by the calendar”, “only a thimbleful of juice and a crumb”, “clone of the Seder” kind of ritual, either. Surely there must be some common ground between the meal as a purposeful acknowledgment of Christ’s sacrifice for sin and an acknowledgment of our oneness in Him.

    But potluck should not be the main event, with the celebration of remembrance as the dessert.

  8. 1-16-2009

    Alan,

    In response to Kat,

    I do try to recognis(z)e the differences between American English and English English, (or is it Aussie English?) :)

    I held to the traditional position on the Lord’s Supper for around fourty years, until I began to minister to a new congregation where I realised the emptiness of what had become, to them, a mere,regular ritual.

    On the Sunday the congregation were due to have the regular Lord’s Supper, I became aware of two members of the congregation who had a long held antagonism towards each other, which was affecting others in the congregation, as is inevitable.

    My concern is that what we call the Lord’s Supper often takes the place of what ought to be a whole of life attitude towards what Christ has accomplished.

    That attitude MUST be reflected in the relationships within the congregation.

    Having attended the Lord’s Supper, it would appear that many (in my experience) seem to have the attitude that until next Lord’s Supper, what Christ has done,and what it means for His people, hardly rates a thought.

    I’m sorry, but I cannot see an “element of organization” as you suggest, but there is definitely an element of “purpose in Christ’s, “do this in remembrance of Me”, again as you suggest.

    Is there any reason why those words could not apply to choosing to do so at any time when members of the Lord’s people eat, whether in a larger or smaller group, even as we do as a couple?

    I believe our problem is that we have come to have a fragmented approach to what Jesus taught, indeed to all that the New Testament teaches, which comes from our habit of proof texting.

    Paul twice makes two meaningful statements in Colossians 2, which have a bearing on where I stand on the matter: In the context of Body life,he says v.17, “And WHATEVER YOU DO, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”. And in v.23, “WHATEVER YOU DO, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,….”.

    We have become far too adept at having an attitude whereby individuals separate what they see as the “spiritual” aspects of their lives (attending meetings) and what they see as the “secular” (read, “nothing to do with anyone else”) aspects.

    The Scriptures certainly don’t allow for that distinction.

  9. 1-16-2009

    Andy,

    “Solely of attitude”… solely? I have to think about that. I would think that attitude plays a part, perhaps even a large part, but I’m not sure about attitude being the only determining factor.

    Laura,

    1 Cor 11:26 says the supper itself proclaims the Lord’s death – that is, the act of eating and drinking itself. Paul doesn’t ask for an additional type of proclamation or declaration. But, it can’t be just eating and drinking, because the Corinthians were eating and drinking (1 Cor 11:20-21).

    From the Middle East,

    Like I said to Laura, Paul said it was the act of eating and drinking that proclaimed Christ’s death. He didn’t say for them to eat and drink and proclaim or reflect.

    Arthur,

    Yes, like I said to Laura and FtME, Paul said the supper itself (eating and drinking) was a proclamation. He doesn’t say to add proclamation or intent or purpose to our eating and drinking.

    Todd,

    ok… so what does it mean to “come together as a church”? Who gets to decide when we are coming together as a church and when we are just coming together?

    Aussie John,

    It is interesting that “breaking bread” is used twice in Acts 2:42-47. And, in Acts 2:46, “breaking bread” is described as “they received their food with glad and generous hearts”. This seems like normal meals to me.

    Kat,

    Actually, in Exodus, the people were instructed to eat the Passover in families – or at most two families together… not very “organized”? Or, maybe I misunderstood what you meant?

    By the way, what if the “pot luck” was a means or way of remembrance?

    -Alan

  10. 1-16-2009

    Aussie John-
    I certainly agree with “whatever you do” to be done in the name of the Lord and with all your heart. And it is far too easy to let the traditional Lord’s Supper become an empty ritual, devoid of any impact on our daily lives. On the other hand, it is also easy to let the “meal” become a social event that excludes the Guest of Honor. Remembering Him needs to be the main course in our lives, not just the dessert.
    I guess that’s why, whether the remembrance is during a planned Lord’s Supper observance, or during a more informal time centered around a meal, we need to be intentional about what we are doing. Maintaining right relationships with each other is part of maintaining a right relationship with our Lord. Anything less is sin, no matter how we serve it at the table.

  11. 1-16-2009

    Alan-
    I realize that in Exodus the Passover meal was family-centered, unless they could not consume all of the lamb. Then they could share with a neighbor.

    Jesus, however, didn’t eat with family members. He hosted the dinner for His disciples. Was that a common occurrence by that time because there were so many strangers staying in Jerusalem during the Passover feast?

    Of course, a potluck can be a time of remembrance of what Jesus has done for us and of what He is now doing in us. But most of us need a reminder if we are to remember.

  12. 1-16-2009

    Kat,

    I don’t know what the prevailing practice was, but I think Jesus took Passover as Scripture described – with his family (Matthew 12:46-50).

    -Alan

  13. 1-16-2009

    Brother Alan,

    Good point. I’m not sure the lunch I shared yesterday with a brother was, in and of itself, proclaiming Him… or maybe it should have.

    Allow me to rephrase and omit the word “reflection”:
    It has more to do with the intent. Just as God did not desire the Hebrews’ sacrifices without hearts that were devoted to Him, if we simply eat a meal without hearts fully devoted and focused on Him, we are missing the point… where is our heart focused? However, when we are devoted to Him and one another, we proclaim His death IN our genuine loving fellowship with one another. Culturally, in most Near Eastern cultures it seems that sharing a meal is a sign of significant identification and bonding (fellowship) with one another.

    Interestingly, this has been a theme in many conversations I’ve had with cross-cultural workers recently… that our Muslim friends need to see us interact with (read: love) each other in deep community. By this they will know Whose we are.

    Peace to you brother,
    From the Middle East

  14. 1-16-2009

    From the Middle East,

    “However, when we are devoted to Him and one another, we proclaim His death IN our genuine loving fellowship with one another.”… I think this is what Paul and other NT writers were getting at. Its not about setting aside a special time or special meal to devote to the Lord… but its about having every part of our lives – including every meal – devoted to the Lord – proclaiming him – fellowshiping with one another and therefore with him – sharing our lives and meals with one another and with him.

    -Alan

  15. 1-17-2009

    You can come to the Lord’s Supper how ever it is served up as full of thanksgiving or as hollow and self-filled as you want. The manner is not necessarily going to change your heart. If, however your heart is preoccupied and fretful with life yet ultimately desires to be fully bent to God then whatever snaps you out of your complacency may very well be the workings of the Holy Spirit.

    Doesn’t scripture say somewhere that if you take it incorrectly you will starve. Or summin like that?

  16. 1-17-2009

    I’m a first-time visitor to your blog, so pardon the interference!

    I think you are falling into a trap here and elsewhere. You are presenting a false dichotomy: it is not either-or, but both-and.
    The Supper is both physical and spiritual – and both need to be expressed to the best of our ability (or maturity).

    Other ‘false’ dichotomies: Jesus was God or man? Bible written by God or man? Worship in Spirit or truth? Are we indiviual or corporate christians? Hope and accomplishment in this life, or the next. And many more.

    Holding to one half of these ‘dilemmas’ is what causes most church divisions and factions. We worship Jesus Christ who has a physical, historic reality – and we believe in the ressurection of OUR body.

    Thanks, John Brigham

  17. 1-17-2009

    Lanny,

    Good thoughts. Thanks!

    John,

    Welcome to my blog! I’m trying to figure out where you’re seeing a false dichotomy between the physical and spiritual? In fact, I see the two combined in a meal, in this case.

    -Alan

  18. 1-17-2009

    said, “…in Acts 2:46, “breaking bread” is described as “they received their food with glad and generous hearts”. This seems like normal meals to me.”

    I think the same.

    Kat. You mentioned that “we need to be intentional about what we are doing.”

    Why can’t we be intentional about remembering and celebrating our Saviour and His work every time we eat? Most followers of Christ I know are certainly intentional about giving thanks for every meal.

    I certainly acquiesce with your words,”Maintaining right relationships with each other is part of maintaining a right relationship with our Lord.”

    You go on to say,”Anything less is sin, no matter how we serve it at the table.”

    How absolutely spot on you are. Yet whole communities of professed believers seem to believe that “right relationships” is simply being civil towards each other, when it means far, far more.

  19. 1-17-2009

    I agree that every meal can be a time of remembrance. Today, for instance we had one of our roosters for a meal.
    My prayer as priest of my family as we sat down to eat was that we would be reminded of Christ’s sacrifice for us in a spiritual manner that we might strengthened spiritually in some of the same way that this rooster gave of his life for us that we might be strengthened physically.
    That helped us to set the tone and attitude for the whole meal. I believe that helped to have us focus again on what Christ has done for us and bringing it into daily life as I believe it should.

  20. 1-17-2009

    Alan,
    You ask “who gets to decide when we are coming together as a church and when we are just coming together?” The answer is simply is the gathering a church. There are specific things that define a church in Scripture, among them being biblical leadership, regenerate membership, regular assembly, and if our meeting lacks any of this then I think we should not consider it a church. It has become popular to deny this but I don’t believe we can execute a faithful reading of Scripture and not see certain structures laid out for what the ekklesia looks like.

    Aussie John,
    “Breaking bread” is not codeword for communion. There were also fellowship dinners as well that would fall under such a classification. Regardless, to say that Acts 2.46 denies a spiritual aspect of communion is reading too much into the Scripture. I would suggest reading John Owen’s writings about the Lord’s Supper to see how it is both a physical AND spiritual act, not to be confused with just the eating of dinner. Why would Paul say “if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home- so that when you come together it will not be for judgment” (1 Corinthians 15.34) if the Lord’s Supper were simply the physical sharing of a meal?

  21. 1-17-2009

    Aussie John,

    I think you hit on something key – something that Paul focussed on in 1 Cor 11 – that is, right relationships. As you said, relating correctly with one another is much more than simply being civil.

    Clarence,

    Thanks for sharing! Anything that helps us focus on Christ is a good thing… at any meal!

    Todd,

    You said, “There are specific things that define a church in Scripture, among them being biblical leadership, regenerate membership, regular assembly, and if our meeting lacks any of this then I think we should not consider it a church.” Could you point out where Scripture says that “biblical leadership” and “regenerate membership” are necessary for a group of people to be a church? Perhaps it might help if you help me understand what “regenerate membership” means from Scripture. Concerning “biblical leadership”, maybe you can help me understand why the churches existed in Acts 14:5, before elder were “appointed” in 14:6?

    -Alan

  22. 1-17-2009

    Alan,
    “Regenerate church membership” means that the true church is made up of regenerated believers in Christ, those who have undergone “the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3.5). Now, we may come to different conclusions on what it means to be regenerate, or when regeneration occurs, but what this does rule out is the practice of some who will include anyone in the “membership” of a church if they come to Sunday School two weeks in a row. The place I would go for this primarily would be Acts 2.38-41 where we see that the numbers of people were added to the church after they had repented and been baptized.

    As for biblical church leadership, I think the verses you are arguing are Acts 14.22-23. But even here we see that the appointment of elders came only a short time after the establishing of the churches (in Acts 14.4). However, we would be remiss to assume that leadership did not exist for these churches prior to that point. In fact, the initial leadership of the churches in Acts 14 was the apostles themselves (see v.4, “some sided . . . with the apostles”). This was the practice of that time and is still the method of an apostolic minister today. The minister will enter an area, establish a church in which he functions as the elder for a while, and then he will raise up and appoint indigenous leadership to continue the church so that he may move on to another area for evangelism and church planting.

    Do you deny the Scriptural basis for leadership in the local church?

  23. 1-17-2009

    Todd,

    “Regenerate Church Membership” is a redundant phrase. When we are regenerated we are automatically members of the church according to Scripture (1 Cor 12:13). A membership role does not define the church.

    I am certainly not against leadership in the church as defined by Scripture. But, once again, in Scripture leadership does not define the church.

    -Alan

  24. 1-17-2009

    Alan – “I’m trying to figure out where you’re seeing a false dichotomy between the physical and spiritual? In fact, I see the two combined in a meal, in this case”

    OK, I will ask the hard question: Are there physical benefits for participating in the supper? What are these?

    This leads us to ask: what is a sacrament, and who decides it’s definition?

    The poles of difference seem to be, sacraments are physically vital vs sacraments are merely optional memorials (e.g. Catholic vs anabaptist).

    My contention is that both views miss what the other brings to the table, and camping on one side of the equation warps our thinking and leads to strife.

    Thanks,
    John Brigham

  25. 1-17-2009

    John,

    Thanks for commenting again. I understand that many make a distinction between physical and spiritual benefits. In your previous comment, you said that I was making this distinction, which you called both a trap and a false dichotomoy. I asked where I made this distinction. Unfortunately, I don’t find your answer in your follow-up comment. Could you help me with this? Thanks!

    -Alan

  26. 1-18-2009

    Alan -

    I’m sorry for not being clear. Your writings seem to indicate a strong anabaptist bent, and I think you may be missing what that other side understands.

    Thanks,
    John

  27. 1-18-2009

    Alan,
    I agree with your comments, that “[w]hen we are regenerated we are automatically members of the church,” but this is of the invisible catholic Church. However, when we are discussing the sacraments I believe that Scripture teaches these as being actions conducted within the visible manifestation of the invisible Church, the local church, and it is at this level where the question of regenerate membership arises. I never argued that regenerate membership, nor leadership, “define” the local church, but they most certainly are shown as being integral parts of what makes it up and any church that is lacking them should not be considered the true biblical local church, and thus not fit to be offering the sacraments.

  28. 1-18-2009

    John,

    Thanks again for being specific, but I still don’t understand what I may be missing. Can you point that out for me?

    Todd,

    In 1 Cor 11, Paul is talking about the Lord’s Supper, which, according to you, is in the context of the “local church”. Can you show me where in 1 Cor 12 Paul shifts to the “universal church”? 1 Cor 14 suddenly shifts back to the “local church” meeting together? It seems Paul would be more precise in pointing out where he’s talking about the local church and univeral church distinction. Or perhaps that distinction is a human distinction and not a scriptural distinction?

    -Alan

  29. 1-18-2009

    Alan,
    Where did I use 1 Corinthians 12 to argue for the universal church?

  30. 1-18-2009

    Todd,

    In a previous comment, I said, “”Regenerate Church Membership” is a redundant phrase. When we are regenerated we are automatically members of the church according to Scripture (1 Cor 12:13).”

    That verse (1 Cor 12:13) reads as follows: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

    In response to this, you said this in your comment: “I agree with your comments, that ‘[w]hen we are regenerated we are automatically members of the church,’ but this is of the invisible catholic Church.”

    This is where you used 1 Cor 12 to refer to the universal church.

    -Alan

  31. 1-18-2009

    Alan,
    I’m sorry for the confusion. When I said that I meant to be agreeing with your statement, but not with the reference you gave. I believe that the regenerate are all and only the elect and so the church is the assembly of God’s elect, chosen people. Regeneration is our individual realization of that election. This is the synthesis of a lot of verses, but none of which would require me to lean on 1 Corinthians 12 to say this.

  32. 1-18-2009

    Todd,

    Thanks for the clarification. Paul seems comfortable using “universal” language (1 Cor 12:13 among many others) in the context of talking to a local church about their resposibilities as a local church. I think when we start making distinction (i.e. we are all regenerate but we may not be “regenerate church members”), then we are adding a distinction that is not found in Scripture.

    -Alan

  33. 1-18-2009

    Alan,
    My fear in this is that we do not take enough responsibility in the issues of properly approaching the table, Paul’s emphasis in 1 Corinthians 11, which is exacerbated by the presence of clearly unregenerate participants in the Lord’s Supper. I do not think “regenerate church membership” was an issue in the days of the early church since to be a “Christian” was not a common lifestyle choice like it is today. Thus, because of our culture we have been forced to emphasize the fact that belonging to a local church means more than just the vague qualifications that most congregations set out, a point of focus which was simply assumed when the NT Scriptures were composed. Again, I would point to Acts 2.38-41 as proof that being added to the number of the church (i.e. becoming a member) was only to come after the person exercised faith in repentance and was baptized.

  34. 1-18-2009

    Alan,

    A response to Toddongod,

    I’m sorry if I haven’t written clearly. I started reading John Owen some fourty years ago and wholeheartedly agree with your reference to him, that, “the Lord’s Supper…. is both a physical AND spiritual act”.

    I believe that! I cannot find, anywhere in Scripture, that the very same principle doesn’t apply to the WHOLE OF LIFE for a genuine Christian.

    As you are an Owen reader you would know that he certainly agrees,especially when he speaks of “the Church” being “the glory of Christ”.

    For that reason I didn’t make any separation between “spiritual” and “physical”.

    Just like life as a human being begins with birth and lasts a lifetime, so does BEING a follower of Christ, start with a spiritual birth and continues for the rest of life with NO separation between the “physical” and the “spiritual”.

    During my fifty or so years of teaching God’s word, I have seen the damage caused by the compartmentalizing our lives into “spiritual” and “physical”.

    Far too many see the Lord’s Supper as a specially “spiritual” time inserted into an ordinary “spiritual”time, which is inserted into the “physical” secular life of believers.

  35. 1-18-2009

    Todd,

    To be completely honest, I am not interested at all in how unrengerate people approach the Lord’s Supper, because they cannot partake of the Lord’s Supper, even if they eat and drink. Instead, I am concerned with the church. I am not concerned with a particular church organization – with membership decided by some group or bylaws or whatever. I’m talking about God’s children – the regenerate, the saved, believers, whatever you want to call them. As far as I can, in Scripture, the only requirement for being part of the church is being a child a God – being regenerate.

    -Alan

  36. 1-18-2009

    Aussie John, your comments really hit a spot with me, I like it:

    “Why can’t we be intentional about remembering and celebrating our Saviour and His work every time we eat? Most followers of Christ I know are certainly intentional about giving thanks for every meal.”

    and

    “During my fifty or so years of teaching God’s word, I have seen the damage caused by the compartmentalizing our lives into “spiritual” and “physical”.”

    I think this is very important. In my meagre 26 years of being alive (let alone ministry!), I have realised that the physical and the spiritual are one. Separation of these assists in creating ‘religion’ and does not allow a fuller outworking of God in our lives.

    In relation to the Lord’s Supper, I think we can over-spiritualise. We should be thankful and acknowledging God each time we gather for meals because ‘our lives is His’.

    Do we seek to attach more to the Lord’s Supper by making it a specific ritual because we don’t live in thanks and acknowledgment of God all the time? This is a huge challenge to me, because I am not doing this very well at the moment!

  37. 1-18-2009

    Rather I meant to have said:
    ‘our lives are His’

  38. 1-18-2009

    Aussie John,
    I’m sorry to have misunderstood your position. When I read your agreement with the comment on Acts 2.46 I thought that you were denying the spiritual aspect, but thank you for the clarification.

    Alan,
    The only reason I brought up regenerate church membership was because I felt like some people were arguing in favor of taking communion outside of the authority of the local church, as a part of regular meals or luncheons or what not, that’s all. I did not mean to make this an ecclesiology battle either.

  39. 1-19-2009

    Andrew,

    I’m glad the discussion is being beneficial to you.

    Todd,

    You keep adding these concepts that I can’t find in Scripture… “authority of the local church”?

    -Alan

  40. 1-19-2009

    Alan,
    Per your last comment, I’m a little confused. Do you not believe in the local manifestation of the invisible church, or do you just disagree that that is where The Lord’s Supper should be taken?

  41. 1-19-2009

    The validity of the sacrament depends on correct matter, intent, and form.

    Matter: Bread, wine (or grape juice)

    Form: An explicit invocation or blessing said upon the matter, said by a pastor (elder or bishop). This should ideally contain the narrative form the Lord’s Supper in Matt.

    Intent: The intent of those present to do what the church does when it takes communion. That is not the same as having a meal with friends. Not at all.

  42. 1-19-2009

    Todd,

    Yes, I definitely believe there are local manifestations of the church in Scripture and today. Is that what you meant by “the authority of the local church”? Because, “local manifestations of the church” doesn’t seem to fit your statement: “I felt like some people were arguing in favor of taking communion outside of the authority of the local church”.

    Abu Daoud,

    Good to see you around here again. I hope things are going well for you. You gave a very systematic description of the Lord’s supper (communion, Eucharist). Why do you think Paul didn’t give such a systematic view?

    -Alan

  43. 1-20-2009

    Salam, ya Alan,

    The answer: Paul was not a systematic theologian, he was an evangelist and a pastor.

    Though later it was pastoral questions that demanded such a systematization. For example, a Mormon comes to your church, she was baptized at age 12, in the triune fashion, by immersion. Is it legit?

  44. 1-20-2009

    Abu Daoud,

    While I know that many people are comfortable with the process, I’m not comfortable systematizing something that none of the authors of Scripture felt the need to systematize.

    The question of the Mormon is irrelevant to this discussion of the Lord’s Supper. But, I would love to talk to this person about their faith in God.

    -Alan

  45. 1-20-2009

    Abu Daoud,

    “For example, a Mormon comes to your church, she was baptized at age 12, in the triune fashion, by immersion. Is it legit?”

    I know this if off topic but I used to be a mormon so I feel compelled to point out that while mormons use the names of the Triune God, they mean something entirely different from what Scripture describes. They are referring to three separate, created beings, three “gods rather than One God in three persons. That is a difference in more than semantics which is why a mormon baptism is not a baptism in the triune fashion.

    Alan, sorry for the completely off topic comment.

  46. 1-21-2009

    Alan:

    Nor did the NT authors feel it was necessary to systematize an authoritative canon of NT writings. For several centuries it was a prerogative of the local bishop as to what writings they used (1 Clement, Revelation, Hewbrews, Didache, etc.).

    Do you also feel uncomfortable systematizing in this instance? I mean, maybe that was really not an appropriate action–the formation of one universal NT canon.

    Another problematic systematization: One God in three persons. Or the five points of Calvin (if you like those), another systematization. Or Anselm’s soteriology of satisfaction–yet another systematization.

    Arthur: I agree entirely with your statement, as does St Augustine, for whatever that’s worth. It is not a legitimate sacrament (or ordinance) because the intention is incorrect, even though the form (the actual words) are correct.

  47. 1-21-2009

    Abu Daoud,

    And, apparently, for a long time God communicated with his children just fine with an “authoritative canon of NT writings”.

    Every systemization, every creed, every confession – even Nicaea, and Calvin, etc. – is given within a context. It is important for us to recognize that these systemization are not “gospel truth”, and for us to struggle with these issues again within our own context.

    -Alan

  48. 1-21-2009

    Alan, I agree with you.

    Would you be willing to say that, say, the Jehovah’s Witnesses represent a contextualization of the Bible for modern America?

    Why not? What is it that makes some cont’s legit or non-legit.

  49. 1-21-2009

    Abu Daoud,

    No, I would not be willing to say that. Why not? Because I believe that JW doctrines are contrary to Scripture – primarily their understanding of Christ.

    On the other hand, I do not think recognizing any meal with other believers as a potention “Lord’s Supper” is contrary to Scripture at all. In the same way, I think that a Lord’s Supper without “An explicit invocation or blessing said upon the matter, said by a pastor (elder or bishop)” can still be “the Lord’s Supper” and is not contrary to Scripture.

    Thus, I believe it is possible to remain within the teachings of Scripture while remaining outside certain systemizations of Scripture.

    -Alan

  50. 1-22-2009

    Hi Alan,

    “In those days there was no king in Israel and every man did what was right in his own eyes.”

    Not to be a jerk or anything, but isn’t that what you have? You read Scripture and it says what you see there, and indeed, perhaps what you want it to see. There is no authority above you, except Scripture, right? But Scripture is determined by your own personal, individual reading.

    This JW’s are not an ok contextualization, and burgers at McD’s is (or can be) the Lord’s Supper which is an OK contextualization. Because you say so. Or rather, because you say that is what Scripture says. Or perhaps, Scriptures says so because you say so.

    At least the answer I’m presenting has stood the test of around 16 centuries, been used and tried in every continent, in thousands of languages, and commands respect in the three major traditions: Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant.

    You have your opinion of what Scripture teaches. I have the opinion of the church across the world and through the centuries as to what Scripture teaches.

  51. 1-22-2009

    Abu Daoud,

    I have a king, and I think I have the same king that God wanted the people of Israel to have. He is my ultimate authority, not Scripture, although I believe that Scripture is a true representation of him and how he worked. I do not want to do what is right in my eyes – which is one of the reasons that I talk about things on this blog, and with people that I know here. I take church history very serious – all of it, not just the parts that agree with me or that I like. Therefore, I recognize that the “church” was often wrong.

    -Alan

  52. 1-22-2009

    Hi Alan,

    Saying the King is your ultimate authority is meaningless unless you are also claiming a) some kind of private revelation or b) a gift of infallibility.

    If you say He speaks to you only through Scripture, then we’re back to the points Abu Daoud brings up. By what authority does your interpretation of Scripture carry any more weight than mine?

  53. 1-22-2009

    Patrick,

    Saying the King has ultimate authority carries all meaning.

    1) I do not consider myself infallible when I am trying to understand God in Scripture or in any other means that he chooses to communicate. Neither do I consider other people (contemporary or historical) to be infallible. God always communicates objectively; we always understand and interpret subjectively. Thus, when I want to understand what God is saying, I consider what many, many people say – including those who spoke in history.

    2) Neither your interpretation nor my interpretation carries more authority. Authority is found in God alone.

    -Alan

  54. 1-22-2009

    Hi Alan,

    Authority rests in God alone. Well, that could be taken the wrong way, but I think I understand what you’re saying.

    There is a gamble here in terms of interpreting Scripture. I will lean not on my own understanding but on the wisdom of the church throughout the ages, even though, as you rightly point out, she has gotten stuff wrong from time to time.

    But less often than I have. There is something wonderful about an interpretation of Scripture that has been considered and owned by people through different ages and from different ethnicities and continents and languages. You can live in it resting assured that it is more than your personal or private preference. The Word of God should be accorded such honor.

    I would wager that such an interpretation should be accepted, even when it contradicts our own personal interpretation of Scripture (or again, perhaps what we want it to say–you can never be sure).

  55. 1-22-2009

    Abu Daoud,

    I do not want to lean on my own understanding or on the understanding of others. I want to trust completely in God. Yes, I believe that he is the ultimate authority… that’s not just a platitude for me.

    By the way, notice that earlier I didn’t say that your systematic representation of the Lord’s Supper was wrong. I do not think its necessary, but I don’t think its wrong either. There is a huge difference.

    -Alan

  56. 1-23-2009

    Alan,

    Would it be fair to say that the point here is not so much that “this is the right way” as it is that there may be more than one way to observe/partake of the Lord’s Supper? That there is nothing inherently wrong with the traditional observance in a church ceremony, nor is there anything inherently wrong with breaking bread in fellowship with other believers in a home (as I did last weekend)? The crux of the issue is not to dogmatically assert that we must meet in a church for the Supper or that we must not meet in a church for the Supper but that there are more ways to observe the Supper than the traditional way most of us are familiar with. I don’t recall you condemning the traditional institutional church observation of the Supper, the issue here is the same as most posts: why do we do what we do?

  57. 1-23-2009

    Arthur,

    Yes, that would be a fair representation of my view. That said, though, I do believe that some ways of partaking in the Lord’s Supper are more beneficial to the church than others.

    -Alan

  58. 1-25-2009

    Alan,

    As Abu Daoud pointed out, I think there’s a distinction in Scripture between a fellowship meal and the Lord’s supper. Where many miss, I think, is that both go together. The Lord’s supper is a specific part of a church meal. Jesus instituted it as a specific part of the feast in the upper room, and in the Corinthian church, Paul drew distinction as well, yet made reference to the Supper as included in the same meeting as the typical meal. I’m for a meal every Sunday, with the Supper every Sunday as part of the meal.

    My 2c US adjusted for inflation…

  59. 10-9-2010

    Matt. 25:31-46 often comes to my mind when the Lord’s supper is brought up. In that passage there is very strong warnings about not caring for and treating others right. Note the references to food.

    I come from a non-sacramental background. I attended once a formal ceremonial in a “church” setting.I focused on Christ as the bread of life and was perfectly at peace.

    In the NT the word”church” is never used of a building.I understand God’s people did not get buildings until about 200AD.So early Christians had little access to their own buildings.

    In meals,family meals, or with friends I have shared what I have had.Where appropriate spiritual things have come up. It is in the dynamics of personal interaction with Christ and others that spiritually things come alive. The mere repeating of the same words or actions can be deadly or totally useless.I attended with a group of ministers
    several sessions on how they could make their ceremonies more meaniful. However all of life can be a means of grace if we look to Christ and/or include Him. I bring so many people and things to Christ in prayer and get blessed as prayers are answered.

    I don’t see the same emphasis on ceremony in the NT as I do in many churches. I wondered if we all need to look harder at the Book of Hebrews.Instead of the symbol we now can enjoy the reality behind the symbol.

    The lack of clear instruction in the NT makes me wonder how concerned God or Christ is with formalities. I am impressed by the level of discussion in this website. When I see the lack of graciousness I question the supposed grace people claim to have through formal experiences.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Assembling of the Church | Blogging Year in Review 2009 - [...] What makes a meal the Lord’s Supper? (January 2009) [...]